Do you think Influencer Marketing is just for big brands?

Or maybe that its a murky place full of dodgy people and fake accounts?

Is an influencer strategy something small businesses should know about? How would you even go about finding influencers?

Emilie Silverwood-Cope is a social media consultant and trainer. She has worked in sales and marketing for over twenty years and has managed social media accounts for charities, FMCG and other B2C companies.

In this Q&A Emilie in the Drive Facebook Group, Emilie shared what she’s learnt from being involved in influencer campaigns.

Find Emilie on LinkedIn and Twitter @SilverwoodCope


Why does influencer marketing work?

One of the reasons is that very few brands get social media right. It’s very hard to be great on Social Media and no one joined Twitter to follow Persil Automatic. Yet they like following Mrs Hinch, and if she recommends Persil…. well you can see how a brand will leverage her reach and her influence.

More and more brands are devoting their budget to influencer marketing – It’s estimated that $10 billion will go on influencers next year. It’s not just for the big brands either – small local brands can use small local influencers.

Rowan Eisner I’m a bit confused, but then I know nothing about marketing. If you pay someone to promote your product wouldn’t that undermine their credibility?

Emilie Silverwood-Cope It would if the product doesn’t resonate at all with their message. So if a vegan blogger has built up a following who are interested in her messages of wellness / yoga and vegan food and recipes – and she is then paid to promote something that undermines that whole image then yes, her credibility is shot. However if a brand of vegan shoes comes along and says “we’d like to partner with you” that would make sense to her and to her followers. It’s all about what the niche is and what the message is.

It’s a tricky conundrum tho. If followers see their favourite influencer doing too many ad posts they may unfollow. I think a lot people accept now that posting content all the time and engaging people is a full time job and if partnering with the right brand means someone gets paid then great. But yes, the tricky balance between authenticity and it being a paid promotion is difficult. Not everyone gets it right – and some influencers misstep – some are just plain grifters. The good ones are genuinely talented and liked.

Trust and openess

Influencer marketing is all about trust. We live in an era of fake news. We don’t really trust the old institutions we used to trust. But we build up “relationships” with people we don’t even know on social media. Mrs Hinch’s followers trust her. They think they know her. Her life is like a soap opera and they watch her clean and buy the products she recommends.

Consumers must always be aware when they are being advertised to, and both brands and influencers have a responsibility to ensure the content makes that reality clear upfront. Failure to disclose a commercial relationship leaves both parties at risk of action from the Advertising Standards Authoirity who have very celar guidelines that must be followed.

We are in the post organic age. You’ll only get organic reach on LinkedIn now. But it’s over on Instagram and Facebook. If you want your message out there your options include paid ads and influencers.

Influencers and brands must be clear, open and honest about the post being part of a paid partnership. It’s not enough to say in your bio “Brand ambassador for Persil” and not add the #ad to your grid post about Persil. Every single post must be tagged correctly.

Not all influencers have huge followings

Helen Lindop Got to admit I have assumed influencer marketing was really for bigger businesses. How could a smaller business with a modest budget approach it?

Emilie Silverwood-Cope Influencer marketing can work very well on a smaller and local scale. In fact, it’s often more effective when smaller businesses team up with nano influencers (that’s influencers with fewer than 10k followers). This type of influencer marketing is effectively digital word of mouth and works well because it feels more authentic.

The different categories of influencers 1. Mega – one million or more followers 2. Macro 100k to a million followers 3. Micro 10k-100k and 4. Nano 1k-10k

The buzz has grown around the Nano & the micro – their audiences are more engaged, they respond to every post, the reply to their DMs and they really know their audiences. They seem much more authentic and that’s what brands like. So a brand might prefer to spread their budget across 15 micro and nano than on 2 macro & mega.

Finding and engaging the right influencers

Karl Gjertsen How do I convince an influencer to be interested in me? They must get approached by everyone trying to get them to promote their product or service, so how do I make myself stand out?

Emilie Silverwood-Cope This is a great question – there should obviously be synergy between your service / product first of all so building up a relationship with them via social networks should feel natural. Say you have a parenting product – you might source parenting bloggers & Instagrammers in your area. Start following them, start liking their posts but also be generous & authentic in your approach – have they written a blog you really liked and can you share it with your audience. A lot of influence is mutual. If both of your audiences and your markets are similar the influencer will be glad to hear from you.

A good influencer strategy begins with YOU. You must know your audience and your objectives. What is it you want to achieve that partnering with influencers will facilitate. Then work out what your campaign goal is. Is it brand awareness, brand sentiment or straight forward sales. Once you know all that & only then do you start researching influencers and working out who to approach and work with.

In order for an influencer to be useful for your business you need to look for three things : they must have a following (reach), they must have influence (not popularity but actual influence) and their audience must be right for your target audience. Follower number isn’t the only metric.

Once you have decided on your goals & what you want from your influencer strategy start doing your due diligence. We’ve all heard about fakes and frauds in influencer marketing: how can you avoid this? Do your due diligence. Don’t be swayed by vanity metrics (likes & follower numbers) – watch how someone behaves. You’re looking for fake bots / Instagram comments pods & too many #ads posts. There are no short cuts this should take time – but it’s much better to take your time.

Another key bit of advice I would give is remember your influencers are human… there are some really talented influencers out there who are keen to show off their creative skills. Involve them in your brand message and what your goals are. Think of them as entrepreneurs too. The best influencer relationships are ones that aren’t just “guns for hire” – they are the ones which are long time, brand ambassadors.

An ongoing influencer campaign …

Ann Hawkins Andy Boothman has had quite a bit of success with influencers for Dress Code Shirts (and some horror stories) so it would be good to hear some more about that too.

Andy Boothman The benefits outweigh the disappointments. Yes there are some people who will take product and try ramming it down people’s throats. Some are very transparent about this, others run so many accounts and click bait it’s hard to know. Overall my experience has been positive. I’d say it’s obvious but probably worth mentioning, know your goal. Be patient this is not a silver bullet. Spend time with these people. They get loads of approaches so make sure you know your apples. Be honest about why you’re doing this and what you’d like the influencer to do and how much you can invest in them – time, product and cash. Lastly, be prepared for a couple of outcomes. This is far from linear. Once you get traction you’ll need the capacity to deal with more. Being timely and punctual is v important.

Make it formal

Once you’ve found your influencer I recommend keeping it formal – be friendly and open but be clear about what you want and expect e.g. what does a post on an Instagram grid cost me, does that include stories, can I use that image on my own grid – will  you keep that image up etc. Be very clear. A lot of influencers will now have their own media packs they can share with you & will be very clear about what you’re getting for your money

Once you’ve found an influencer the process is 1. share your brief with them 2. agree content 3. formal agreement 4. review the results

The most successful influencer campaigns are the ones where the influencer is using their own voice and their own ideas to interpret your brief. Do not be too controlling – some brands will email what they want copy & pasted into a post. Don’t be that brand. You’re paying for their authentic voice and their audience will know if they’re being used as a mouthpiece.

The formal agreement could include details like when you want the post to go out (e.g. between which dates) and whether it includes stories, or a blog etc.

Best platforms for Influencer Marketing

DBM Motion Graphics. When I think of influencers, rightly or wrongly I tend to think of Instagram. Which platforms are best suited to influencer marketing?

Emilie Silverwood-Cope You aren’t wrong to think of Instagram first and that is certainly the platform that has seen the rise of the influencer. They started on YouTube and moved on to other platforms. In terms of what works best that really depends on your goals, your target audience and who you are trying to reach. It works differently on LinkedIn & Twitter and it would be true to say influencers would not see ££ opportunities on those platforms – more thought leaders and using the platform to build relationships (e.g. a journalist might get a TV gig because of a subject they’ve been discussing and that leads to something else). Facebook is trying to entice influencers to their influencer programmes and Lad Baby had a lot success via Facebook – and obviously TikTok – though HollyH (UK Gen Z TikTok star) says she rarely does branded content but has used her platform to get media jobs.

Brand Ambassadors, Celebrity Endorsment, and Influencers

The term influencer means different things to different people but for some it only means people who are “digital first” – ie. they made their start digitally – on YouTube or  Instagram and built up their following. The famous GLEAM agency (talent management) will only have digital first influencers on their books. So NOT your love islanders or reality TV. Digital first are people who have found a niche for their passion and created an audience – say book lovers who have creatively shared their love of books via an Instagram. A publishing company might then make brand ambassadors though.

Lots of the first generation influencers want to cross to mainstream media now and not do the ads. Joe Sugg move over into other media via Strictly and Joe Wicks who was an influencer for Gousto has now bought into the company and is running a spin off, Wean in 15, to get babies weaned. Athletes, TV celebs and others get famous for something first and then get approached to be endorsers or brand ambassadors.

Make sure the influencer is brand safe. Google them. Check their feeds. Check what they are like on Twitter as well as Instagram.

Do not confuse popularity with influence. It’s not a surprise that most celebrities make terrible influencers. Don’t be like Davina McCall and try and cash in on her large following by selling Colgate. This is AWFUL and her followers hated it and she was slated in the comments for being a greedy celeb.

The only metric that should matter is relevant audience – don’t be seduced by follower numbers or by likes (which Instagram are hiding anyway)

How to avoid the fakes

Helen Lindop I’ve been horrified at how many people have been shown to be using shady tactics like comment pods, follow/unfollow, bots etc. Some are easy to spot, others not so much. You really do have to be careful to find someone genuine.

Emilie Silverwood-Cope Yes there’s a lot of shady practices – and not just from influencers but by brands as well.

Ann Hawkins Are there tools you recommend you check if followers have been bought or are fake accounts?

Emilie Silverwood-Cope you can use Social Blade – If you’re a small business though and looking at small influencers I would recommend gut feel over everything else. You should look out for posts which only have the same commentators on them and saying things like “great post” or “love this” – check the engagement and see if it feels real to you. Our human gut reaction is very good at spotting fakes.

I would also click on to the people posting comments – bots rarely have any posts or activity on their own accounts.

Influencer Marketing as part of a marketing strategy

An influencer strategy won’t make up for a poor product or bad planning and not knowing your goals & your target market.

Influencer campaigns I’ve loved are Oral B, Gousto is quite good (getting a bit formulaic now) they make good use of parenting influencers on Instagram. Locally I think Dr Francis is really good at Anglia Orthodontists.

Great influencer campaigns make you feel something. The best campaigns are memorable and meaningful. Influencers who have built up trust can relay a message in a way that brands simply can’t. Influencers can tell a story in a way brands can’t and social media is all about sharing stories.

If you’d like more information on Influencer Marketing or other social media strategies, contact Emilie on LinkedIn and Twitter @SilverwoodCope